Review by Retro

Reviewed: 05/03/01 | Updated: 05/19/03

Classic space shooter that sat in the darkness while the likes of Space Invaders and Asteroids took up all the limelight

Man, those were the days, weren't they? Way back when, gamers were easily entertained and satisfied with games in which they did nothing more than use a sort of cannon at the bottom of the screen to shoot overhead aliens that just danced back and forth dropping fire at you. It's almost unbelievable how big of a hit Space Invaders was, in retrospect. I guess it was because video games were at such an early age that almost anything new was good to see. But man, the popularity of the space shooting genre....*shakes head* was just....amazing. Especially when you take a look at how much shooters have evolved these days.

The Atari 2600 had its share of space shooters as well. Many of the popular arcade space shooters were made for the system, and most were instant Atari blockbusters. Space Invaders was the most popular Atari 2600 game for well over a year. Asteroids, Galaxian, Defender, etc., were among the other major hits. Demon Attack wasn't ever in the arcades, but you don't have to be a well known game to be a great one.

While Demon Attack has similarities to fellow space shooters like Space Invaders and Galaxian, it's a little different. A purple cannon is sitting at the bottom of the screen waiting for someone to use it to destroy these extremely colorful aliens that are invading the pitch black skies overhead. Of the ones I've seen, Demon Attack has the coolest aliens of any Atari 2600 game, no doubt.

At the start, three extraterrestrials of a certain breed will pop into the atmosphere. Of course, all you have to do is shoot your cannon a few times to rid your television screen of them all. This sounds all too simple, but you'd better fear these creatures. Whether it's multicolored albatrosses, crab-looking critters, ghostly beings, or spaceships that seem to change their sizes at will, all of these aliens have the ability to either spray fire down on you that acts like rain by moving left or right as it descends, or to simply drop fast as hell lasers on top of your cannon. Just one hit from these basic weapons can kill you deader than dead.

After shooting your way through a few waves of these invading morons from outer space, you'll encounter several that break up into two smaller halves upon being shot. These smaller, bird-looking beasts make an unforgettable classic sound when they slowly flap their two wings and glide downward, wanting to collide head-on with your little purple cannon.

As mentioned earlier, three large aliens of the same kind will pop onto the screen at the beginning of each level. One of these brutes are at the bottom of the screen, not too far above ground level, where you're at. Another one is in the middle of the screen, and the other prefers the higher, less humid air. Whenever you shoot any of them, another one of the same kind will instantly regenerate (when one regenerates, you'll hear the other awesome sound effect, the loud surging sound that symbolizes the appearance of a new alien ready to do battle), appearing back into the sky. Eventually, the aliens' numbers will die down, which allows you to take on the final three and then progress to the challenge of the next level.

In classic Atari 2600 style, the levels themselves don't change a bit, but the enemies do. All of the levels just consist of the same dark background along with the blue ground and the constant background sound that I don't know whether to call 'music' or not. The aliens cycle from interstellar dinosaurs, to airborne crustaceans, to ghosts that are even more mysterious than the ones in Pac-Man, and so on. If you get far enough, you'll notice that the cycle will begin all over and over again, but the colors of the well detailed enemies are always changing, and as you might expect, the enemies get much more aggressive. With the fact that you earn an extra life for every stage you pass without getting killed even once, you should be able to play until your fingers ache so much that they feel much older than they are.

The saying goes that ''all good things must come to an end.'' Well, that's true in most things, no doubt, but I'd say that having fun playing video games is a good thing. Playing great Atari 2600 games has shown me that the fun never ends with certain games.

Demon Attack is one of these games. I know that the game will never end and that there's no other reason to play apart from just to have fun or to see if I can roll the score, but I play it anyway. I usually go at it by myself, but cycling through the multiplayer games, I found something unique. Of course, you can play a two-player game with a friend, turn-taking style, but forget that. There's at least one variation in which you and your pal can play at the same time. The cannon changes from one color to the next (two colors in all) every few seconds. When it's the original color, you, the first player, gets to blast the life out of the aliens. A few seconds later, when it changes to the other color, your friend gets to control it, and it just keeps changing like that. I thought that was neat, especially for the time.

It's easy to go on a demon-destroying rampage with the controls. You just move left and right with the joystick and press the button anytime you want to fire away. Being able to just hold down the button to continuously shoot at the enemies is a big help too. Best of all, you can choose whether your cannon just shoots straight up, or you can opt to use guided missiles that scoot left and right with your every move (why would you ever want to use straight missiles instead of guided ones?).

It doesn't take much precise control to save up a few bucks and purchase a great Atari 2600 game from an online store or a flea market. That's what you need to do if you're a fan of the glorious space shooters genre. While greats like Space Invaders and Asteroids selfishly took up all the limelight back in the early days of the 80's, Demon Attack was lying in the darkness by itself, knowing that it was a classic in its own right. Anybody who was lucky enough to pick up this title found out that there was a superb game included. I'm glad I was one of those lucky ones.

Rating: 8

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